St. Paul sums up the chief article of the Christian faith in that oft-cited passage from Ephesians: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast.”
When it comes to our right standing with God, our justification, all of this is a done deal. Our forgiveness is total, complete, free and undeserved.
Yet Paul continues: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
You and I are God’s workmanship, His work of art, created by Him in Christ Jesus for a purpose – to do good works – good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. Good works are not something we do to be saved. They are something God prepared long before we were ever born for us to do once we came to faith in Him.
But such growth in grace is does not happen apart from the regular and persistent use of the gospel on these conflicted hearts of ours.
For instance, some educators talk about child development as ratchet based. A ratchet on a windup spring prevents the wheel from turning backward – it can only be turned forward. So, the idea goes, children grow bigger, never smaller. Vocabulary increases, never decreases. Thinking becomes more complex, never more simple. But this ratchet-based model does not fit this thing called sanctification.
In a perfect world, our faith would always grow stronger and more mature. Ideally, we want to be better Christians when we are 90 than when we are 19. In some cases, this is happily true. But not always. There are children whose gift of faith is the envy of any jaded adult. There are weary and compromised adults who would do well to get back to the child-like faith of their youth.
King David’s faith was at a peak in the valley of Elah when he defeated Goliath. His faith fell into the abyss on the roof of his palace when his lustful eye led to an adulterous affair and murder. The mountains and valleys of our walk with God are not so neatly defined.
Wherever you find yourself each morning, whatever challenges face you each day, big or little, all of these things are God’s assignment to you, God’s opportunities for you, God’s telegram to you that you are here for a reason. You have a job to do, a mission to fulfill. You are God’s workmanship, God’s masterpiece – once ruined and defaced by sin – now saved by grace, through faith, for good works which God has already planned for you to do. This adventure is His gift to us – so that no one can boast.